Dancing to Sinatra

Aug 16th, 2012 | By | Category: Ireland

Driving towards Portlaoise, the Golden Hour on the radio included Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” and the unresolved question arose: what song did they play at the end of discos?

This question became a matter of vital concern, a couple of years ago, whilst sitting in a bar one evening with a friend from Co Roscommon, six months older than myself, when the band began to play Mr Sinatra’s song.

“Ah”, he said, “the song that ended every disco – Frank Sinatra”.

“You had Frank Sinatra at the end of a disco”.

“Of course, didn’t everyone?”

“We didn’t – we had Jeff Beck”.

“Why did you have Jeff Beck?”

“I don’t know – we just did”.

Jeff Beck had pride of place at our discos in Somerset. After the proverbial ‘last dance’, the smooch to The Commodores, or Leo Sayer or The Stylistics, the lights would brighten and the volume would go up and ‘Hi, Ho, silver lining’ would be played. The mind plays tricks, but there seems to be memories of forming a circle in some places and dancing like the revellers at some Mediterranean wedding feast.

Sophisticated, it was not, but it meant the evening ended in laughter and good humour.

Of course, had the discussion taken place at an earlier hour of the day and the mind been more active, the question would have been turned around. It would have been reasonable to have asked why discos in Roscommon ended with Frank Sinatra, he wasn’t exactly Top Ten stuff in the late ’70s

Maybe the answer would not have been hard to find. At a time when the Irish population was 3.5 million, there was one point when 350,000, 10% of the total, were seeking visas for the United States. America was the land of opportunity, it was the place to go, the place to be. Being in New York for teenagers from Co Roscommon would mean having plenty of friends around; it would mean excitement and freedom; a world apart from the place where my friend complained there was nine months of winter and three months of rain.

“New York, New York” represented an aspiration, a hope of something, what did “Hi, Ho, silver lining” represent? Who knows? Why did we sing a 1967 song with lyrics that didn’t make sense then and still don’t? Why did the song become so popular?

Perhaps it was that we were bad in England at expressing our feelings? Perhaps it was that there was no sentiment upon which we all agreed? Perhaps we just liked silly songs? Perhaps someone, somewhere, has the answer? Perhaps there isn’t one.

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